Unwarranted detention

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On July 16, 2014, the ACLU-NJ announced that it had sent letters to officials in all 21 New Jersey counties urging them to stop honoring warrantless immigration detainer requests issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

These requests are not legally binding. They just represent ICE’s desire that local jails hold people for 48 hours after they would otherwise be released. This period of incarceration is at the expense of the county’s taxpayers, not the federal immigration service. Further, they do not represent an official finding that the person is undocumented or deportable. “Indeed, ICE has wrongfully issued detainer requests against hundred of United States citizens…leaving the counties liable for unlawful imprisonment.” For example, a Perth Amboy-born man who was held for ICE in Lehigh County, Pa., won a nearly $100,000 settlement for unlawfully keeping him in custody. As a result, the Lehigh County Board of Commissions voted unanimously to end the county’s police of imprisoning people based on ICE detainer requests.

In August, 2013, Newark became the first New Jersey jurisdiction to adopt a formal policy of rejecting these “warrantless immigration detainers.” Another 153 jurisdictions outside of NJ have followed suit, including Philadelphia, New York City, Chicago, and the states of California and Connecticut. Most recently, Middlesex County took similar action.

Bergen County has not yet taken action on warrantless detainers. For a sample letter showing why this should be done, go to the ACLU report at www.aclu-nj.org or contact us at www.cofia-nj.org.

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